Bouncing fastballs?

Watching the first inning of Tuesday’s Rays/Yankees game, I noticed Wade Davis bounce a fastball during a sequence against Alex Rodriguez. That’s certainly not something you’ll see too often, so I checked my PITCH-f/x data to see how often fastball are thrown in the dirt.

Gameday identifies pitches in the dirt with a “ball in dirt” or “swinging strike (blocked)” tag (the latter if the pitch is swung at). The data below show these two fields as a percentage of total pitches and are for 2011 only.

  # Dirt%
Curveball 60207 7.1%
Splitter 8198 5.4%
Slider 102220 4.8%
Changeup 70599 4.7%
Cutter 34587 1.1%
Sinker 129209 0.9%
Fastball 242303 0.5%

Disclaimer: Following Dan Turkenkopf’s catcher block percentage pieces on Beyond the Box Score a few years ago, some discussion was generated about the Gameday’s “in dirt” fields. As is often the case with stringer data, the tags are far from perfect, so please keep that in mind.

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  1. Dan Turkenkopf said...


    Pitches are also only registered as In Dirt when it’s important (i.e. runners on base or 2 strikes), so you’d probably want to adjust for that.

  2. Jim C said...

    On a slight sidebar, I watched some of the latter stages of the Cards-Phillies game Saturday, and when Rzepczynski (sp?) came in to pitch for St. Louis, Yadier Molina had so little confidence in him he was tipping the pitches. When the pitch was going to be a fastball, he had his throwing hand behind his back, as you would expect. But when it was a curve or a slider, he had his hand in front, knowing the ball was going in the dirt, and giving himself something else to block it. I was astonished at first, when I saw his hand exposed, but after a few pitches it was apparent why he had it there.

  3. Lucas Apostoleris said...

    Thanks Dan.  So my denominator should be pitches with runners on base + two-strike pitches?  I’d re-run the numbers now but my data is flaking on me at the moment.

  4. Evan Brunell said...

    As a current stringer, I can tell you exactly what happens. A ball is only noted as a ball in the dirt if there are runners on base or on a pitch that issues a walk. A blocked swinging strike is only noted on strikeouts.

    Balls in dirt do not get noted for wild pitches or passed balls or anything else that doesn’t fit the above criteria.

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